As you can see from the amount of posts I’ve made on here, it’s not very often that I feel compelled to write a blog post. This weekend, however, something happened to do just that.
I’ve been passionate about DJing for a long time. As a kid, I would do as most kids did and indulge in a little bit of analogue piracy – taping my favourite songs from the radio. The difference with me was that, once I had a few new tracks, I’d transfer them to a new tape, interspersing them with links and segues to create my very own radio show. It was called Lynx FM (despite not yet hitting puberty, I had an extensive and inexplicable deodorant collection, of which I was very proud) and it made me a radio presenter. Obviously, it was all in my head, but I didn’t care. I listened back to that tape and MY GOD, I WAS ON THE RADIO. It was exhilarating, and I was hooked.
Fast forward a few years. I’m 17 and and I’m not on the radio, I’m working at a LaserQuest in the local bowling alley. We hosted kids’ parties and, more often than not, bairns would emerge from the arena in tears thanks to the sound effects in there – heartbeats, heavy breathing, footsteps – all the things that set your adrenaline going, but aren’t ideal for a group of people for whom the LaserQuest packs came down to their shins. My solution was the Spice Girls. I brought in my Discman, wired it into the sound system and suddenly, kids were ‘killing’ each other to the glorious sounds of Wannabe. When the company closed the LaserQuest, they had to think of something that would keep me at the SuperBowl. In 1997, I did my first ever Christmas campaign as a DJ. But I wanted more. I wanted radio.
Once, around that time, I went into a proper radio studio. I heard that Radio Aire wanted a voiceover artist to record some new jingles and sponsorship adverts. This was it – my opportunity to get on the radio. I would ROCK IT and get a presenting job. I remember it vividly – the script was ‘Turn your week into the weekend with Bacardi Breezer and Radio Aire.’ I also remember how horrendously nervous I was, and how terrible I sounded on the recordings. The producer in charge of hiring for that project, Cam, politely hinted that I might not get the gig. And that was the end of my career in radio.
Fast forward to today. I’m 36 (I think), and I’ve got a radio show. It’s on the internet and about 5 people listen to it every week. One of them is my fiancée and the others are mostly other people from the station, listening to make sure I don’t say the F word on air. But God, I love doing it. And I’m still DJing. It’s mostly been weddings and whatnot for the last 8 years, but this weekend I’ll be breaking back into the club scene (parp).
During that time, I’ve been many things. I’ve fitted car alarms, I’ve been a graphic designer and a school IT technician. I’ve overseen the building of Land Rovers and sold mobile phones 4 u. I’ve handled complaints to Chief Executives and I’ve sent the odd amusing tweet. But none of that – NONE of it – makes me feel like I do when I’m on the radio. And I’ve got (mostly) one person to thank for that.
If you’ve ever listened to my show, you’ll find it oddly ironic that I’ve always been pretty fussy about who I listen to on the radio. Growing up, there’s only ever been a few presenters that I’ve truly loved listening to – Caesar the Geezer, Chris Moyles, Alex Pepper and Simon Hirst. All of these presenters have kept my love for radio alive, but none more so than Hirsty. Over the years, his passion for radio and for his listeners has inspired me – not only to the point where I ended up with my own show, but also in my own radio personality, which is heavily influenced by both Hirsty and Moyles.
The bottom line is that if it wasn’t for Hirsty, I wouldn’t be a radio presenter, and I certainly wouldn’t be the presenter that I am. I’ve never met him, but I’ve always kind of felt like I’ve known him, as I expect many people have. He’s always been like an old pal for thousands – but for me, he’s also been a true inspiration. And I have no doubt that’s what she’ll continue to be.
This weekend, the irreplaceable Simon Hirst was suddenly replaced. In a profoundly heartfelt interview with Stephen Nolan on Radio 5 Live, Stephanie Hirst introduced herself to the world.
The revelation was a shock – but not really so much in the sense that you might think. The most shocking thing for me was that this poor woman has felt obliged to physically represent herself as a man for so long; that she’s spent the last 30 years of her life hiding herself from the world. The interview was candid, to the point where it moved me to tears. She described it as having someone poking her in the arm, over and over, from the moment she awoke to the moment she fell asleep. I’m a normal bloke with normal worries – money, work, kids, an ex with an axe to grind – and I often have trouble nodding off at night because of it all. But it simply pales in comparison to the private torment that Stephanie must have endured over all these years. I can’t even begin to fathom how she’s coped.
Although I don’t feel like I’ve adequately emphasised my sadness at how hard it must have been for her to manage the situation in which she’s found herself to date (and I’m not sure that I ever could), I really don’t feel as though that’s where the emphasis should be. My overwhelming sadness for Simon is replaced with heartfelt joy for Stephanie – the fact that she can now be who she’s always been, without having the curtains drawn. That she can wear what she wants and look the way she’s always felt is an inspiration in itself. In a world which frequently demonstrates its lack of compassion and understanding, I’m humbled by the courage that she’s shown this weekend, and I’m more in awe of her now than I ever was of him.
The only thing left to do now is get her back on the radio, where she so obviously belongs. It’ll be the same old Hirsty – perhaps with a slightly different voice and a pair of boobs – but she’s still the same witty, hilarious and loveable person that’s been on our radios for the last 20-some years. And if she’s not on our radios for the next 20-some once she’s ready to make a return, there’s something very wrong.
You’ve been an inspiration to me and countless others for years, and I see no reason why that shouldn’t continue.
Thank you and welcome to the world, Stephanie Nicola Hirst.